18 July 2012

DIY: high heel repair

At the university where I taught last semester as an adjunct professor, the university parking pass would have cost me sixty dollars. Now, in an urban setting, sixty dollars for a semester wouldn’t be so bad. But I didn’t want to pay that because this university was in a small city, and the campus itself was small, and anyway I was basically getting paid for my hard full-time work in compliments and intrinsic motivation instead of dollah dollah bills.

So I decided to park on the street, just off campus. It was only five minute walk from my building – and there was plenty of room to park, because everyone thought a five minute walk was sooooo looooonnnng that they all paid for a parking pass that let them have a two minute walk.

There was just one downside to that short daily walk: my high heels didn’t fare so well.

No, I didn’t even realize how horribly worn they were. And yes, it is embarrassing how long it took me to notice. Like how you can see the nail sticking out on the left heel of both pairs – caused, I suppose, by the fact that I always carried my heavy bag (containing my laptop, textbook, and various purse sundries) on my left shoulder.

To my credit, I did notice the clacking sound when I took steps with my left foot and how it was different from that with my right. I just... thought I walked funny.

It’s to be expected, I suppose, considering these shoes weren’t new at the start of the semester, and both pairs are from Target (read: inexpensive and perhaps lower quality). But here’s the thing: I have never liked two pairs of shoes enough to wear the heels down like this. These shoes are comfortable and flattering. Plus, I couldn’t find new shoes that were similar and that I liked, thanks to this annoying platform-heels-fad.

However, I could find replacement heel tips! I found them here, and for a mere seven bucks or so per pair (including shipping), I thought it was worth trying to save my favorite shoes before giving up and paying more money for shoes I didn’t like all that much.

The tan shoes were easier to repair than the black ones, as I hadn’t walked on the exposed nail for months. First I tried prying off the remaining heel tip with a flathead screwdriver, the claw of a little hammer, and a variety of pliers, but I only succeeded in ripping off the rest of the plastic-vinyl-whatever and leaving only the nail exposed:

A bit of work with the aforementioned tools, though, and I was able to pull the nail out!

It was far less work with the heel that had a thicker amount of heel tip left:

Much easier to pry out a nail when it stays attached to the heel tip!

Then I just had to tap in the new tips with a hammer. Compared to the hard work of getting the old nails out, this was easycakes!

Yeah, I ordered a tip size that was slightly too small. You’d never really notice it without looking closely, though. And anyway, it looks way better than the nearly-missing-tips before, eh?

The black shoes, however? Maybe not nearly as salvageable. It took far, far longer to dig the nail out of one black heel than it did to repair both tan heels. And once it was out, I discovered just how much I’d worn down the heel itself, not only the tip.

See how the hole for the nail isn’t flush with the heel anymore? Yeah. When I put in the replacement tip, there was a gap between the heel and the tip. Garrrgghghggghhhh.

And of course I love these black shoes more than the tan ones. OF COURSE.

I lost patience before I could get the nail out of the other shoe. So, my black heels are still out on the injured list until I can figure out a better solution, like a real shoe repairman – or find a pair I like just as much, for the same price.

So, lessons learned: you CAN replace heel tips on your one, and if you DON’T let your heels get so worn, this is a fantastic way to stretch the life of your shoes, both the pricey ones and the inexpensive ones! Best wishes, future DIY cobblers!


Mary Beth said...

Hey, we wear the same size! :)

Sarah said...

Haha MB! They're different sizes, actually (one is appropriately 8.5, the other is a 9.5 but somehow fits okay anyway). Either way, I'd let you borrow the pair that's your size if they weren't in such awful shape ;)

Mary Beth said...

Ahhhh ok! I wear an 8.5. And I, too, have been in the shoe situation where you finally find comfortable heels and they get worn out....since I'm not very DIY - thank goodness for the Shoe Repair Shop down the street!

Gary said...

Very interesting. I found your blog when looking for replacement heel caps. I am a guy who works with quite a few women in an office setting. My job is to keep the printers, office machines, etc running. For the past few years the ladies have been bringing me there heels for repair. I am happy to help out. I've gotten pretty good at repairing their worn heel caps. I found a "C" shaped pliers which works really good for extracting the old heel & pin. I even keep a nice inventory of replacement heel caps & can match any shoe. One of the women asked me why the heels wear out so fast. Good question! I did some quick math & figured that a 115 pound woman exerts about 2,000 pounds per square inch with each step. It's no wonder the heels take such a beating! I told the ladies to keep a close eye on their heels & get them to me as soon as they notice the metal part wearing through. The heels are so much easier to repair if they get them to me soon enough.